When financier John Carey, then 35, woke up one night in 2002 with a searing pain in the ball of his left foot, the last thing on his mind was gout. ‘I’d been training hard the day before – I practise judo and ran marathons – and thought I must have broken my toe. But my doctor said I had all the symptoms of gout.’
A test confirmed the level of uric acid in his blood was high. Uric acid is a waste product created when the body breaks down chemicals in food called purines. If your kidneys don’t filter out enough uric acid or your body produces excess, the build-up causes tiny sharp crystals to form in and around the joints, which can cause painful inflammation with redness and swelling.
John was given a prescription drug (allopurinol) to lower his uric acid levels but experienced significant side effects: ‘I felt dizzy and spaced out, as if I was in a chemical haze,’ so he gave it up. Researching the possible causes of gout, he found one possible link was being born prematurely with slightly damaged kidneys. ‘Also I was eating foods high in purines [eg, red meat, offal and seafood] and was dehydrated during training.’
Despite a strict diet, cutting out alcohol and drinking lots of water, the disabling attacks continued. Then, in 2005, he had a breakthrough on a business trip to Michigan, the centre of Montmorency sour cherry farming in the US. ‘I had another attack and a colleague suggested local cherry juice, which reputedly helped gout, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.’ John hobbled off to an orchard where the farmer makes a concentrated liquor for cherry pies. ‘He told me to drink a tablespoonful in water twice a day. Within 48 hours, the pain, redness and swelling had gone. My joints felt as if they had been oiled.’
Back in the UK, however, the attacks resumed, so John imported a few bottles of Montmorency cherry juice for his own use. Then his mum and her friends started taking it for arthritic joints and soon John was telling everyone he met how it could help joint inflammation. The few cases became hundreds and in 2006, John launched CherryActive.
CherryActive is supported by clinical research and testimonials have poured in over the years, mainly from people suffering from arthritis or gout (and fibromyalgia, in one email I read), who were able to reduce or give up painkillers and other drugs. One ‘CherryActive junkie’ wrote: ‘My right hand had become almost useless [due to arthritis]. Now I can sew, knit, write, paint – a million things that were agonising before.’
Sports people including England football, rugby and cricket teams take it to help faster recovery from training, with the bonus of better sleep due to the high levels of natural melatonin (the sleep hormone) in Montmorency cherries.
CherryActive, now part of the umbrella company Active Edge, has been joined by BeetActive (to help high blood pressure), BlueberryActive (for cognitive function) and recently PomegranateActive, which may help inflammatory gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
By Sarah Stacey, written for Mail on Sunday 10th December 2017